The Florida Everglades region represents a unique, productive, and spectacularly beautiful ecosystem. Large populations of long-legged wading birds (herons, egrets, ibises, storks, spoonbills) are considered to be a defining characteristic of this ecosystem, and are seen as a key component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. They are also a tangible, aesthetic piece of the Everglades that the public values and understands.
Wading bird populations in south Florida have been monitored in some fashion for over 80 years. The University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation has been involved in systematic monitoring for about 20 years, representing the longest-running and largest scale wading bird monitoring project in the world. Together with partners at Audubon of Florida, Florida Atlantic University, and Everglades National Park, we estimate the number of nesting pairs in the south Florida ecosystem. We document the timing and distribution of nesting, and also evaluate nest success in several of the more important colonies. The University of Florida team works primarily in the Water Conservation Areas (WCA) of the central Everglades, but also help with monitoring in Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park.
In addition, we also perform research on specific questions that help guide restoration and help our understanding of important ecological processes. Research topics include demography and habitat choice by endangered Wood Storks, effects of elevated methylmercury on breeding, and development of novel methods for increasing the accuracy of colony size estimates.